SCCiThe Southeastern Cave Conservancy buys caves!
We buy caves to provide recreational caving access, to protect endangered species, to protect fragile watersheds, and to provide other types of recreational opportunities like photography, hiking, and camping, and to provide opportunities for scientific research. Sometimes if we are unable to actually buy property, we will work with the landowner to set up a lease. Leases allow our supporters to visit, photograph, and hike to caves that may have been closed for many years, and allows cavers to help protect fragile underground ecosystems. We also partner with many other conservation organizations across the region to accomplish our mission.
Gray bats
Many people are confused about the SCCi's business model. Unlike many land conservancies that set up easements and accept land donations, we buy property at fair market value. Owning property is one of the fundamental principles of our organization. We think that the best way to protect caves and property forever is to own what we want to protect. Sure, we'll take a donated cave any time we can get one as long as the cave fits in with our mission, but we know that we need to try to buy caves we want to protect.
If we can't buy a cave we want, we try to lease it. We own over 1,400 acres of land, 23 separate cave preserves, and lease many more acres. We have a list of many more caves we're actively trying to buy.
We started out buying caves in the area centered around Chattanooga, TN that features one of the most fabulous caving areas in the country. As the SCCi grew, we started to expand outward to protect properties throughout the southeast. We currently own or manage caves in six southeastern states, including Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

In the late 1980s, large parts of beautiful southeastern karst landscapes started to be closed to recreational access and threatened by development. A small group of caving enthusiasts started talking about how to protect a beautiful and pristine part of the landscape that many people don't think much about: caves.

SCCi was the brainchild of Jeff and Alexis Harris, two long-time cave conservation activists from Georgia. In 1991, they called together a group of about 20 caving enthusiasts to discuss the idea of starting a cave conservancy. Back then, the idea that cave explorers could come together to buy and manage large numbers of caves seemed reasonable, but they also knew that a conservancy would require huge sums of money and a vast amount of volunteer labor.

After that first meeting, everyone agreed to move forward. After more planning meetings, the newly formed Southeastern Cave Conservancy received official 501(c)3 status in November of 1991. At first, the small group thought that the way the new conservancy would actually own caves would be through donations, conservation easements, or maybe leases. The small group of leaders thought they might be able to afford to actually buy a cave every once in a while, just as long as the property didn't cost too much.

The group has been much more successful than the founders could have imagined. Over 27 years later, the SCCi protects 170+ caves on 31 preserves in six states. How did the SCCi founders do it?

SCCi was lucky in its early years. The founders benefited from good advice and guidance from many people and organizations. They modeled the new group after the Nature Conservancy and sought that group's advice for how to be successful. They also got lucky right away when a local caver donated a very popular cave in Trenton, GA, Howard's Waterfall Cave, to the start-up conservancy. This generous donation set the stage for many other projects in the years to come.

After getting started, the new board started to talk about a good first project. Many in the group were very fond of Fox Mountain in Rising Fawn, GA, and the wonderful caves hidden under the mountain's craggy surface. The only problem was the property potentially for sale was over 300 acres-- hefty acreage with a hefty price tag.

As the group pondered whether or not to try to buy Fox Mountain, the board got word that one of the most beautiful and popular caves in the southeast, Neversink, was for sale. The board knew they had a better chance of paying for the 86 acres at Neversink. The purchase tooke three years to finalize.

The purchase of Neversink put SCCi on the map. People who were previously skeptical of a cave conservancy became enthusiastic about the group's mission and goals. People jumped on board to help the group pay off the $50,000 mortgage. Over $30,000 was raised before the closing. The remaining $20,000 was financed by a loan from an anonymous supporter. The loan amount was raised and repaid in less than six months. In all, more than 400 people donated money to the project and became honorary owners of a "piece of the pit."

Over the years, the SCCi has acquired well-known and loved caves such as Kennamer Cave, Limrock Blowing, Valhalla, and Fern Cave's Surprise Pit. The SCCi did eventually buy a large piece of land on Fox Mountain and some wildly popularly caves. For other caves that weren't available for purchase, like Sinking Cove Cave, SCCi has worked out long-term lease and cooperative management agreements.

After more than 27 years, SCCi protect some of the most important bat habitats, caves with spectacular biodiversity, and important watersheds. All of this will providing opportunities for cave exploration, hiking and scientific study.

General Email Address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Research Application Contact Info
See the Research Guidelines page for information about applying for a research permit.
Snail mail:
Southeastern Cave Conservancy
PO Box 250
Signal Mountain TN 37377
Phone: 423.771.9671
Check out our Facebook  pages to connect with the SCCi and our supporters!
Wolf River Cave Bob Biddix
Wolf River Cave, photo courtesy of Bob Biddix

Wolf River Cave Wolf River Cave is more than eight miles long and is one of the most significant caves in North America in terms of its biology, anthropology, archeology and zoology. Many areas of the cave contain cultural resources or pristine formations and it's very important that you stay on established trails!
Southeastern Cave Conservancy Inc., in partnership with The Nature Conservancy , Tennessee Chapter (TNC) and Bat Conservation International (BCI), purchased Wolf River Cave and 33 acres of surrounding karst land near Jamestown in Fentress County Tennessee. The cave and surrounding property were part of a family farm that was sold at auction on July 20, 2002.
The cave also contains Tennessee's second-largest hibernation colony of the rarest endangered bat species in the Southeast - the Indiana bat. According to a survey conducted by Tennessee Technological University, the winter colony numbers between 2,400 and 2,500 bats. One of the first species to be placed on the federal endangered species list, Indiana bats hibernate in caves from September through early April. The cave is also known to house a small number of federally listed endangered gray bats in the summer, as well as a few Rafinesque's Big-Eared Bats. In addition, explorers have reported observing blind crayfish and cave beetles.
Wolf River Cave Bob Biddix
Wolf River Cave, photo courtesy of Bob Biddix

The Nature Conservancy , Tennessee Chapter and SCCi operate under a Memorandum of Understanding for joint projects involving caves and cave protection in Tennessee.  Along with its other goals and objectives, the ability to act quickly and in concert to purchase caves in immediate danger is one reason the MOU was implemented.  In a land auction participants often have little time to prepare and prices can soar above appraised values.  This important acquisition would not have taken place without the financial assistance of TNC and Bat Conservation International.  Gabby Call, Director of Protection for TNC's Tennessee Chapter, and Jim Kennedy, Assistant Director of BCI's North American Bat Conservation Partnership, were instrumental in securing the necessary financial support and in forging a successful partnership among the three organizations.
Preserve Information:
Acreage: 32.86 acres in Fentress County, Tennessee
Preserve Management Team: Wolf River Cave Preserve Management Committee (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Access: Permit required permits.scci.org (Closed September 1 - April 30)
Preserve Map: Wolf River map
 
Valhalla Cave Preserve Alabama
With its beautiful 227-foot entrance pitch and over a mile of cave at the bottom, Valhalla is one of the finest pit caves in the southeastern United States.
SCCi has established a good working relationship with the surrounding landowners and the hunting clubs that lease much of their property, and have obtained permission to cross their lands and to place an SCCi lock on the gate at the beginning of the road. Cooperation and respect for our neighbors is critical.
In the interest of maintaining good relations with our neighbors, visitation is minimal during deer and turkey hunting seasons.
NOTICE: To help prevent the spread of the deadly White Nose Syndrome (WNS) affecting bat populations, please read the SCCi Cave Visitation Policy and follow the guidelines before visiting Valhalla.
Preserve Information:

Acreage: 145.0 acres in Jackson County, Alabama
Preserve Management Team: Buddy Lane, Bill Putnam and Patrick Wilson (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Access:To request a permit, visit http://permits.scci.org

Preserve Maps: Piece of the Cave Poster  | Surface Plot Poster  | Slice of the Pit



Valhalla Cave Preserve Alabama
Photo courtesy of Kelly Smallwood

Tumbling Rock Cave
Tumbling Rock Cave, the Topless Dome. Photo by Nathan Williams.

Tumbling Rock is one of Alabama's finest caves. SCCi started leasing the cave in January, 2008 and purchased the cave in July, 2011. This very special acquisition is the culmination of more than four years of extensive efforts by SCCi member Jay Clark and others. The cave is open for visitation primarily on weekends, from Saturday morning until Sunday afternoon. Access at other times may be possible by special arrangement.
Visitors entering the cave will be expected to have appropriate caving equipment (helmet, boots, and headlamp) and to follow standard cave safety and conservation practices as promoted by the National Speleological Society.
When visiting the preserve, it is important that visitors continue to observe a few common sense rules, such as:

  • When visiting the preserve, please do not change clothes in public. Changing area are available and must be used.

  • No using the bathroom in the cave, or at any place other than the facilities we have provided outside.

  • Please do not consume any alcoholic beverage or drugs of any type in the cave or on the preserve.

  • Please respect and be considerate of our neighbors, other visitors, and the cave environment by refraining from littering, touching artifacts, damaging formations, molesting wildlife, or otherwise disturbing the peace and serenity of the cave and the preserve.


 
Tumbling Rock
Tumbling Rock, photo by Nathan Williams

 
Help support this preserve! You can Buy a Brick that will be placed in a nice patio near the cave entrance. Each brick is available for a donation of $100 or more.  You may "buy" up to five bricks per form.  Each brick will be laser-engraved with a custom message of your choice, subject to space constraints, and will be permanently installed in a patio area outside the entrance to the SCCi's Tumbling Rock Cave.
Preserve Information:
Acreage: 5.0 acres in Jackson County, Alabama
Preserve Management Team: Nathan Williams (Lead) and Alexander Dobrowolski (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Access: Open on Saturdays and Sundays. Other times by special arrangement. To request a permit, visit http://permits.scci.org
Preserve Maps: Tumbling Rock Map
Buy a Brick! Visit this page
 
Tumbling Rock
Tumbling Rock, photo by Nathan Williams
On Friday, September 26, 2008, the SCCi completed the purchase of Steward Spring Cave near Fort Payne, Alabama. Steward Spring Cave (AL 871) contains more than 15,000 feet of nicely decorated stream passage, along with an abundance of cave life.
The cave was severely vandalized in the 1980s, and was later gated to end the abuse and allow restoration work to begin. Much of the damage has been repaired, but efforts are ongoing and will take years to complete.
Steward Spring Cave is managed by Ken Rupil and Lin Guy. It is gated, and arrangements for access may be made by emailing Ken and Lin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
NOTICE: To help prevent the spread of the deadly White Nose Syndrome (WNS) affecting bat populations, please read the SCCi Cave Visitation Policy and follow the guidelines before visiting Steward Spring Cave.
Preserve Information:
Acreage: 15.0 acres in DeKalb County, Alabama
Property Management Team: Ken Rupil and Lin Guy (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Access: To request a permit, visit http://permits.scci.org
Preserve Maps: Steward Spring Map
 
South Pittsburg Pit is located in the city of South Pittsburg in Marion County, Tennessee. The cave has a beautiful 160-foot entrance pit and more than 2,200 feet of surveyed passage, and has been a popular destination for visitors since its initial exploration by Chattanooga Grotto members in February 1964.
South Pittsburg Pit Preserve includes the pit entrance and ten acres overlying the cave passages, as well as easements for access to and from the preserve. The seller donated an additional ten acres to serve as a buffer against future development in the area. Access to the twenty-acre preserve is available via the established trail which begins behind the water tank above Lloyd Park in South Pittsburg.
The South Pittsburg Pit purchase was financed by a 10-year, $40,000 mortgage. SCCi was able to pay off the mortgage in large part because of our Sustaining Members. The stable monthly income allows the SCCi to buy even more caves that we all love and enjoy. Please consider joining the SCCi as a Sustaining Member.
NOTICE: To help prevent the spread of the deadly White Nose Syndrome (WNS) affecting bat populations, please read the SCCi Cave Visitation Policy and follow the guidelines before visiting South Pittsburg Pit.
Preserve Information:
Acreage: 20.76 acres in Marion County, Tennessee
Preserve Management Team: David Crisp (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Access: To request a permit, visit http://permits.scci.org
Preserve Maps: Piece of the Cave Poster  |  Surface Plot Poster
 
Snail Shell Cave is one of the most biologically significant cave sites in the Southeastern United States. In 1999, the cave was named one of the Top Ten Most Endangered Karst Communities by the Karst Waters Institute following its nomination by The Nature Conservancy of Tennessee. Primary threats to the cave include trespassing and vandalism, logging, and factors related to the encroaching sprawl and development from the nearby city of Murfreesboro.
In 1999 the Southeastern Cave Conservancy Inc. purchased Snail Shell Cave and 88 acres of surrounding karst land and cedar glade near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Snail Shell is the longest continuous cave in the Tennessee Central Basin region, with more than 9 miles of surveyed passages. It is part of a system of caves comprising more than 13 miles of known passages. The main entrance, which is located on the SCCi property, is a huge sink about 100 feet wide and 200 feet long. The sink is a microhabitat containing and extraordinary number of rare and endangered plant and animal species.
Snail Shell Cave Preserve Tennessee
Snail Shell Cave is an important natural resource. It is the intention of SCCi that it be available to responsible and qualified individuals for exploration, recreation, education, and scientific study.
SCCi's  Snail Shell Cave Preserve is being managed according to a comprehensive management plan developed by the Snail Shell Working Group and approved by the SCCi Board at its meeting in Chattanooga. The Working Group, which had more than 30 participants, was comprised of cavers, conservationists, scientists, and land managers experienced in cave and karst management issues. Key support and assistance were provided by The Nature Conservancy and the State of Tennessee.
Snail Shell Cave Preserve Tennessee

Due to a history of abuse of the cave and preserve, and to preserve good relations with our neighbors, the management plan requires advance notification before visiting the cave.
Snail Shell Cave Preserve Tennessee

Preserve Information:
Acreage: 88.0 acres in Rutherford County, Tennessee
Preserve Management Team: Bob Biddix (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Access:
To request a permit, visit http://permits.scci.org
Preserve Maps: Piece of the Cave Poster  | Surface Plot Poster







 





Custard Hollow Cave Sinking Cove Preserve Preserve Tennessee
Custard Hollow Cave

SCCi manages visitor access to the Sinking Cove area (also known as Compartment Four of the Carter Lands) under a lease agreement. The caves included in the lease are Sinking Cove Cave, Cave Cove Cave, and Custard Hollow Cave. The area was closed to visitors  in February, 2001 when it was leased by a new management group. By executing a  sub-lease of caving rights from Deep South Outdoors, SCCi re-opened the area to cavers for access outside of Tennessee deer and turkey seasons. Access to the preserve by SCCi members and guests is limited to the dates and periods determined and announced by SCCi and Deep South Outdoors. During those periods, access for caving and camping is allowed as defined in the Management Plan.

Access: Recreational caving and camping is governed by the Sinking Cove Cave Preserve Management Plan. At least one person in the group must be a current SCCi member. Our lease requires that the individual named on the permit be a current member of SCCi. Large groups (more than 16 people) need to request special permission at least two weeks in advance.


Sinking Cove Cave Sinking Cove Preserve Preserve Tennessee
Deep South Outdoors (DSO), the primary lease holder for the area including Sinking Cove and Custard Hollow,  requires that all permit holders must carry their permit with them while on the property and be prepared to show it when asked by any of the staff or other users. This policy was instituted by the DSO to control unauthorized access, poaching, and vandalism. It was designed for the hunters, but visitors have to abide by it as well.
Property Cleanup: As part of the lease, we are required to contribute to the maintenance and upkeep of the property. This is usually done in May at the beginning of the Summer open season.
SCCi pays a substantial annual fee for this lease. Contributions and donations to help cover the cost of the lease are very much appreciated.
NOTICE: To help prevent the spread of the deadly White Nose Syndrome (WNS) affecting bat populations, please read the SCCi Cave Visitation Policy and follow the guidelines.
Preserve Information:

Acreage: Leased in Franklin County, Tennessee
Preserve Management Team: Buddy Lane (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Access:
To request a permit, visit http://permits.scci.org  Closed during deer and turkey seasons.


 
 

Custard Hollow Cave